Frozen or Cold Ingredients - Frozen butter, cold ingredients and cold bowls are a key factor in making the perfect pastry. People often place their mixing bowl in the freezer prior to making pastry to ensure that it is created in the coldest environment possible. (That's if it will fit). Others have been known to chill the flour and freeze the butter before use.
Mixing by Hand - If you are mixing by hand then ensure your hands are cold before rubbing the ingredients together. Run them under cold water and pat them dry before beginning. Always use your fingertips when 'rubbing in' as your palms are the warmest part of your hands and can cause sticking. Try to limit the amount of handling you do when binding the ingredients together.
Food Processor - Using a food processor to bind your ingredients together allows you to have limited handling of the pastry, giving you better results.
Butter, Lard or Trex (Vegetable Fat) - Use Butter, Lard or Trex as part of your ingredients for pastry instead of margarine and you will end up with a much richer, melt in the mouth pastry as your final result.
Frozen/Chilled Butter - In order to use frozen butter in your pastry simply grate it into your bowl or processor using a cheese grater. This will allow you to bind the ingredients easily and ensure the best results. If the butter is too warm, it will have an adverse effect on your final results as the flour will absorb too much fat from the butter, thus creating a toughened pastry crust.
Sifted Flour - Sifted Flour is much easier to combine with other ingredients as it becomes much lighter when you sieve it. This can have a much better impact on your final baking results.
Sweet Pastry - To make sweet pastry ensure you use Unsalted Butter and add a little sugar to your recipe to make the base sweet tasting. Sweet pastry can be used for large and small tarts, apple pies and other fruit pastries.
Savoury Pastry - You can use Salted Butter in your pastry ingredients, or as an alternative use normal butter and add a pinch of salt. Anything with salt in it would generally be used for savoury foods such as pies or quiches.
Rolling Out Pastry- Do not over-flour your surface when rolling out, as this may dry out your pastry. Always rotate the pastry when rolling out so that it does not stick to your work surface.
Chill Pastry - Roll pastry out into your desired shape, place in your tin, ensuring there are no air pockets in it and then chill in the fridge for 30 mins. This prevents the pastry from shrinking back away from your tin, relaxes the dough, chills the butter, and helps achieve a light and airy pastry when baked. However, if your tins won't fit in the fridge, simply roll the pastry into a ball and wrap it in clingfilm. Remove from the fridge after 30 mins; allow to soften slightly, and then roll out and bake.
Blind Baking/Dock Pastry - Ensure you dock the pastry (prick holes in it) to allow the steam to escape when you bake it. This ensures the pastry doesn't puff up when being blind-baked and bakes more evenly.
Add Vodka - Believe it or not by adding a touch of Vodka to your shortcrust pastry dough not only gives it a touch of moisture making it easier to work with but it also helps the dough become more tender and flakey when baked.